F1 visits its first all-new country since Russia in 2014 (the 32nd country the championship has been to since 1950) when the European Grand Prix – a label not seen on the calendar since Valencia in 2012 – is held in Baku. For what is meant to be the fastest street circuit seen so far, Pirelli has nominated the medium, soft and supersoft tyres. As is always the case with a brand new venue, Pirelli has had to rely on simulation and acquired information rather than real data, which makes the task of nominating tyres more complex.
Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Baku:
P Zero White medium – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
Theoretically, this is the most balanced of Pirelli’s Formula One tires, with an ideal compromise between performance and durability. It is an extremely versatile tire, but works best on circuits with high speeds, high temperatures and high energy loadings. It is a high working-range compound.
P Zero Yellow soft – more grip, medium wear (used for shorter-race stints and initial portion of qualifying)
This is one of the most frequently used tires in Pirelli’s range, as it strikes a balance between performance and durability, with the accent on performance. It is still geared toward speed rather than long distances, but it remains capable of providing teams with a competitive advantage at the beginning of the race where cars are carrying a full fuel load and at the end of the race where the fuel load is much lighter and the race effectively becomes a sprint. It is a high working-range compound.
P Zero Red supersoft – highest amount of grip, highest amount of wear (used for qualifying and select race situations)
This is the second softest tire in Pirelli’s range, and it is ideal for tight and twisting circuits, especially in cold weather when maximum grip is needed. The supersofts warm up rapidly, which has made it a stalwart choice for qualifying. But with increased grip comes increased degradation. It is a low working-range compound.
Two of the three available compounds must be used during the race. Teams are able to decide when they want to run which compound, adding an element of strategy to the race. A driver can also use all three sets of Pirelli tires in the race, if they so desire. (If there are wet track conditions, the Cinturato Blue full wet tire and the Cinturato Green intermediate tire will be made available.)
Pirelli provides each driver 13 sets of dry tires for the race weekend. Of those 13 sets, drivers and their teams can choose the specifications of 10 of those sets from the three compounds Pirelli selected. The remaining three sets are defined by Pirelli – two mandatory tire specifications for the race (one set of P Zero White mediums and one set of P Zero Yellow softs) and one mandatory specification for Q3 (one set of P Zero Red supersofts).